Paul Herman

ANC, please protect Makhosi Khoza

2017-07-11 10:48
Dr  Makhosi Khoza (Jan Gerber, Netwerk24)

Dr Makhosi Khoza (Jan Gerber, Netwerk24)

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It has never been a harder time to speak out for what is right if you're a comrade of the African National Congress.

The once glorious liberation movement is locked in an internal battle to save its ailing reputation, functionality, and morality from itself.

So when a party MP speaks out so fervently against her own leader, it naturally divides opinion.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and chief whip Jackson Mthembu both came down hard on ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza this past week, after she revealed she had written to Speaker Baleka Mbete to request a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence in the president, citing her safety as a reason.

Both men want to see good governance restored to the ANC. At least one of them has spoken out about the culture of corruption eroding the ruling party.

So a "rogue MP" is not helping the greater cause by speaking out of turn and against the party line, both men have probably reasoned. She is a firebrand after all, with very clear principles.

Now, the ANC has the right to deal with its inner party squabbles and the conduct of its deployed cadres in whatever way it deems fit by its constitution.

And some would argue that perhaps Khoza should not be speaking out so publicly if that is what she has agreed to. Perhaps she should be quenching the fire.

But here's the thing: she isn't doing this for personal gain. She isn't doing it as a result of an outspoken personality, or a desire to "chase publicity".

By her own words, she is doing it because her life and those of her children are at stake, as a result of a) her work as a Parliamentary committee chair, and b) her anti-Zuma views.

She has received death threats "on a regular basis" since March for oversight work she conducted in the Mpumalanga health services, and for openly pressing for Zuma to be removed in April (and definitely not the only comrade to have done so).

It's the definition of life-or-death circumstances.

She is on record as saying that when she speaks out in public, she feels safer knowing the public is aware of what is happening to her, when her own organisation decides to remain deathly silent about it.

Yet she is still waiting for Mbete and Mantashe to pronounce on the issue of her safety, with only Mthembu condemning the threats, she has said.

"It's my life at stake; it's my children's lives at stake. If the organisation is going to keep quiet, must I keep quiet?" she told News24 last week. The single mom has also laid two criminal complaints with the police.

I understand the ANC's mantra as a liberation movement is that threats to the lives of comrades are always occupational hazards.

They were par for the course, but the movement lives on. Mthembu himself may have gotten a few after some stinging rebukes of his own against the culture of corruption fostering.

But, is this not "peace" time? The only war that is being fought is within the ANC itself, between deepening factions, fostered during the Mbeki years and growing uglier, more vicious heads since, like the monstrous Hydra in a Greek tragedy.

"A triumphant story has turned tragic in my lifetime," were Khoza's own words in April. Was she wrong? The answer is not the point.

The general public is actually very isolated from what the decision makers and king makers are doing within the ANC's national executive committee.

What the public has taken heart from though, is a fantastic ruling party MP who isn't afraid to speak truth to power, who charmed the nation while chairing the appointment of a new public protector, roasted executives in the SABC inquiry, and has been a strong chairperson of her new portfolio committee.

Her work as a Parliamentarian is one of a handful of small signs that combat the waning trust of the general public in the ruling party with every week, month and year that Zuma has been president.

And she is one of a few members in the organisation that make many voters hope their ANC can still be saved.

This ultimately is not about Zuma. It's not even about the ANC, the media, or alleged "publicity sprees".

It's a citizen's appeal that, in spite of all the political manoeuvring we will inevitably see in the run up to the ANC's December elective conference, there are still some things considered more important than political power.

The only thing we as the public can conclude from this saga thus far is that the party currently values restoring its image above the safety of one of its female comrades.

Yet, what's happening to the ANC internally is its own fault.

I cannot say whether Khoza speaking out against the party line is wrong or right. That is open to debate.

But is it asking too much that the ruling party put the protection of Khoza and her children first? How it deals with her "ill-discipline" thereafter, is its prerogative as an independent party.

Discipline her then, if needs be. But speaking out publicly to save face among the factions can only galvanise those who are brutalising her, even if that was not Mantashe or Mthembu's original intentions.

It doesn't protect her.

I have a sneaking suspicion that were Khoza to receive the protection she so desperately asks for, her "public utterances" would become decidedly less public, in any case.

One can only hope that Mbete, who is also the party's national chairperson, can step in and resolve the impasse, and provide the assurances Khoza desperately craves.

As it stands, what message is being sent when her pleas for protection are being treated with lukewarm urgency, in a society that seems hell bent on silencing women's voices, and attacking their bodies for pleasure and control?

Please ANC, protect one of the nation's MPs.

Allow her to continue the stellar work she has been doing in the name of your very own organisation.

- Paul Herman is a journalist at News24. He covers Parliament and politics.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

* Only comments that contribute to a constructive debate will be approved by moderators.

Read more on:    baleka mbete  |  makhosi khoza  |  anc caucus  |  corruption  |  anc
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